Mouthwatering Nyonya-Style Chicken Keluak Recipe

Credit: Gerald Lee

Buah keluak is very popularly used in dishes amongst the Peranakans. However, eaten raw they are poisonous and can really cause harm. We call them “Black Truffles” because of the black filling inside each seed but of course it is much cheaper than truffles. You can find buah keluak in the local wet markets. The ones sold have usually been processed, fermented and safe for consumption.

Buah keluak is actually the seed of a tall tree called the Pangium Edule that is native to the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia. The seeds need to go through a long process of fermentation in order to make it safe to consume otherwise they are deadly poisonous if eaten raw.

The buah keluak is boiled first and buried in ash, covered in banana leaves and earth for 40 days in order to remove the toxin from the shell. This is why you need to soak, scrub and wash them thoroughly before cooking. 

Nyonya Chicken with Keluak

In Nyonya cuisine, buah keluak is usually cooked as a curry dish and the traditional protein of choice is chicken. Buah keluak is also known as a natural tenderizer of meat while keeping the meat moist.

The preparation for this dish is slightly tedious but I can assure you it is a must-try. Not many Nyonya restaurants serve this but if they do, you usually would need to pre-order it in advance.

How to Prepare the Buah Keluak

Preparing buah keluak for cooking is quite easy once you know the method. First, scoop out the flesh. The process is just like eating crabs where you pick the flesh out from the seeds with the back of a small spoon or fork. The filling has a mild fermented black bean taste.

Just follow the four easy steps below:

1.Soak and scrub the buah keluak first

2. Crack the lips of the soaked and washed buah keluak and remove the flesh from the seeds with the back of a spoon. 

3. Pound the flesh finely with 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of sugar and lemon juice. Mix well.

4. Fill the flesh inside the seed again and set aside.


a) Other Ingredients

  • 10 buah keluak, soaked in water, scrubbed and washed 3 times
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon KF (Potassium Chloride) salt
  • 1/2 chicken, cut and cleaned
  • 20 pieces of dried chilies, de-seeded, soaked in hot water, toasted and blended
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass, pounded
  • 1/3 cups of tamarind juice, made with 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste and  1/3 cups of warm water
  • Sugar and Salt to taste
  • Water as needed

b) For Garnishing

  • 2 Kaffir Lime leaves, thinly sliced for garnish
  • 4 daun kesum
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

c) Spices for blending

  • 5 red onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch of galangal
  • 1 inci of tumeric
  • 2 fresh red chilies
  • 4 candlenuts, coarsely pounded
  • 1/2 inch belacan (shrimp paste), toasted


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pot on medium heat and saute the turmeric till fragrant.
  2. Add in the chilli paste, lemongrass and  cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the spice paste at low heat till the oil comes up to the surface and the spice paste has darkened in colour.
  3. Add in the chicken and slow cook till chicken becomes tender.
  4. Pour in some water until the chicken is fully submerged and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Add in the buah keluak, kaffir lime leaves, daun kesum and tamarind water. Add in salt and sugar to taste.  Let the sauce continue to simmer for another 10 minutes or until gravy has thickened.
  6. Garnish the dish with thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves.
  7. Serve with hot steamed rice and some sambal belacan.

Scrumptious Meal Awaits You

Hope you loved this unique recipe and ingredient. I’ll be sharing more recipes on Butterkicap, so don’t forget to follow their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook profiles for more Nyonya recipes. If you have any questions regarding the recipes I have shared, feel free to contact me via my Instagram profile, @justinescakesandkueh.

Justine Lim

With love for the freshest and natural ingredients, Justine Lim aspires to recreate heritage Malaysian recipes into modern, elegant-looking delicacies. Catch more of her delicious creations on her Instagram profile, @justinescakesnkueh

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